Fiesol 3442 and Markins M10
This review will be based on the Fiesol Tripod as the M10 has numerous reviews on the internet.
The Feisol 3442 is a 4 section carbon fibre lightweight compact tripod that will support 10Kg and extends to 138cm without the center column.
Ordered this form Feisol direct in Taiwan, their site is a no frills easy to use site. As with any internet purchase i email them first to see if the item in stock as well as giving me an idea on customer service. 10 minutes passed and i had my reply from Orion! There are also quite a few options to go with this tripod such as, center column, levelling head, spikes, macro 90deg adaptor etc.
I ordered the Fiesol 3442 Tournament Class Tripod US$309.00 with the optional center column US$39.00, I will be using this tripod for mainly outdoor work and hiking so i went with the slightly shorter (48cm folded) 4 section version. The legs are 28mm cross section and the clamps are the Gitzo type, *note that with the Tournament series the legs can rotate in themselves. this is to allow the largest leg diameter possible. The total cost US$381.0 including airfreight delivery.
The Box came 3 days later - Taiwan to Perth in excellent condition. The Fesol comes with a carry bag that is moderately padded and and easy fit for the tripod. Rumours on the net said that the bag was very tight, Fiesol must have listened and changed it because mine is quite snug but in no way tight. (If you held the bag upside down the tripod would easily fall out under it's own weight). The bag also has a pouch on the side that looks after the included tools, a few allen keys as well as a tube socket. Also included is a hanging anchor hook that attaches under the head for weighing the tripod down in adverse conditions.
The construction of this tripod is first class, i looked for manufacturing shortcuts like burred edges, rough threads, misalignment and finishing blemishes. I could not find any!. The action of angling the legs is quite stiff which i now appreciate after use. (the legs will stay in place if i pick up the attached camera and tripod by one of the legs.) The baseplate is CNC machined and quite nicely too i might add. *note all hinge bolts are apparently aluminium so don't over tighten them if you play around with them.
Feisol have gone with a slightly novel approach to the baseplate making it removable and interchangeable. A circular disc is secured into the frame of the tripod via 3x4mm grub screws, (your ballhead then attaches via a 3/8" or 1/4" screw to this disc). This allows interchangeablity between the center column, no column, a levelling ball and socket type as well as a 90 degree macro center column clamp. This mount also proved valuable for myself as i will discuss in a minute.
I set the Feisol 3442 up without the center column as i was doing some macro work the next day and needed to go as low as possible I was surprised at the lightness of the setup. On my scales with a Markins M10 the whole lot is 1.5Kg so 1kg without the M10.
Please note with the Markins M10 the legs will NOT fold over the head, some say that it does but i would not do it for fear of scratching the tripod and/or bending the pan lock knob's shaft. The legs will sit snug next to the main knob of the M10 on one side but then as you fold the next leg over there is not enough room between the two legs to accommodate the two knobs and puts pressure on the small pan lock knob. The knobs are also quite close to the pivot point of the legs so even light pressure on the tips of the legs will translate to quite alot of force at the knobs. Now, If the head was positioned a little higher then it would allow a tiny bit more room for the knobs so i machined a baseplate similar to the Markins anti vibration bases for the Gitzo's only i utilised the 3x4mm grub screw baseplate system and substituted the mounting disc as mentioned earlier (see attachment). This allowed me to save weight and simplify the mounting system for the ballhead. As a bonus i can now leave the weight anchor hook installed when i fold the legs up and over the head for travel on my backpack. If you would like the legs to fold over the head out of the box get a Markins Q3, i have read that it folds away nicely with no damage being done.
In practise the legs are smooth and easy to use, when they are locked in the legs are surprisingly solid. If i lay a fully extended leg on a table with only the top section supported and hung a full 600ml milk carton on the tip of the leg there is minimal (less than 1 inch) movement at the tip. I would say there would have to be a couple of kilos to get any substantial (1 inch or more) flex in the leg.
The height on the Feisol is amazing. Without the center column my 6'4 height can comfortably lean over and use the camera for shorter lengths. With the center column installed and fully extended the camera viewfinder is over my head!
I'm not one to get into the finer nitty gritty *read mirror lock up vibration* examples on 300mm lenses, besides my biggest lens is a 24-105L so i don't qualify to even comment on that. There are a few examples of this that can be googled. There is quite a bit of information on the Nikonians site.
Since i have only had this Feisol for a couple of weeks now i can't comment on it's longevity, i can say that all the materials used are aluminium, carbon fibre and stainless steel so corrosion is not going to be an issue. Form an engineering point of view and it's simple design i am expecting this to last a long time.
Manufacture and Sales link http://www.feisol.com/english/feisolen.htm